"In Letter, Lawyers Threaten to File Complaint Against Paxton" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.
Roughly 150 Texas attorneys have signed on to a letter threatening to file a complaint with the State Bar of Texas against Attorney General Ken Paxton for his response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage.
"It seems to us that your edict to encourage Texas clerks to violate a direct ruling of the United States Supreme Court violates" the State Bar's rules requiring attorneys to uphold the U.S. Constitution, the letter states.
After the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide, Paxton issued an opinion telling Texas clerks they did not have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if it violated their religious beliefs — though he suggested that they could face litigation.
On Friday, Paxton spokeswoman Cynthia Meyer said the attorney general's legal opinion was "a nonbinding interpretation of the law," one that "emphasizes the importance of protecting religious liberty while enforcing the Supreme Court's expanded definition of marriage."
If Paxton doesn’t change his direction to county clerks in the coming weeks, Steve Fischer, a former director of the State Bar of Texas, said he plans to file a complaint he anticipates hundreds of other lawyers will sign onto.
“I think he could very easily be disbarred,” said Fischer, who wrote the letter sent to Paxton’s office Friday. “He violated his oath to specifically uphold the United States Constitution.”
Also on Friday, former state Rep. Glen Maxey, the Texas Democratic Party's county affairs director and the first openly gay legislator in Texas, filed a complaint against Paxton with the State Bar, calling the attorney general’s response “dishonest … and in violation of the United States Constitution.”
“For a Texas lawyer to engage in such conduct is a blatant violation of ethical duties,” Maxey wrote in his complaint.